Monday, February 28, 2011

In which I dabble in pattern drafting and well, yay!

Here it is, the last day of February, and finally I have a dress to show!  This one took the full month, both because I've been busy with other stuff (mainly work) and because I started out to make a different pattern, failed (or it failed me ... a little of both, perhaps?) and had to go back to the drawing board.

Here's the pattern I set out to make.  Looks innocent enough, right?  Well, it turned out to be "teen" sized, which is vintage code for "designed for someone way shorter than me".  There was also something weird about the way it was drafted.  I got the bodice together, but it did not look like the picture.  The bottom neckline slanted a a weird angle.  The fit was poor.  It was just bad news all around.  (Expect to see this pattern on Etsy sometime in the near future.  Caveat emptor.)

I really, really loved the styling, though, and I might have pouted a bit to my husband about it.  "Couldn't you draft that?" he asked.    Well not from scratch ... but what if I took a pattern that does work for me as a starting point?   That seemed achievable, so I got out Butterick 6149 and went to work.

Here's what I ended up with.  And can I say, it really wasn't so hard?   What was I afraid of?

I made the following changes to the bodice (the skirt remained unchanged):

1.  Altered the left and right front bodice pieces so that one was a few inches longer, and the other a few inches shorter, in order to get the asymmetric placing of the buttons.

2.  Figured out how big a scallop I wanted, and drafted a half-circle piece to trace.  I started off thinking I wanted four scallops, but it looked too busy, so I tried three and that works for me.   I accounted for the seam allowance as I measured, so that the bottom scallop wouldn't disappear into the waist seam.

3.  I liked the neckline from Butterick 6149, but didn't want it to be so dramatic on this dress, so I relaxed the angle a bit.

That's it!   For some reason, it came out a bit loose in the waist, which is probably a sewing rather than drafting error.  But I like it, and heck, I find a looser fit more comfy anyhow.  (And I'm afraid style loses to comfort every time with me.  Sad but true.)

The fabric is some sort of cotton with a subtle stripe to it, probably purchased from the clearance section at High Fashion Fabrics, but I don't remember for sure.   Weight-wise, it's probably not that different than quilting fabric, but it has a different hand to it -- hard to explain.  The lining is aqua voile that matches the buttons, plus I used the last of my red polka-dot fabric from Butterick 6149 to the bodice front facings.  So yes, what looks like a whimsical combination of aqua buttons and red stitching is actually anal-retentively color coordinated with the inside of the dress.   :)

Still no pictures of any dresses on me, but here's a final dress-in-the-garden shot.  The dog even got in on this one -- it's almost like I'm there, right?

I'm not sure what I want to make next.  Maybe it's time to make some skirts, which arguably I wear a lot more than dresses.  I could add some fun decorative elements to otherwise simply-shaped skirts, like a pleated hem, or more scalloped edges.    On the other hand, I have a 1930s pyjamas pattern with a top that I think would make a cute blouse.  And my vintage dress patterns always beckon.   Argh, I really need to sew faster or find some more free time!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A recipe so simple even I can make it

I actually did a little sewing today!  I might finish a garment during the month of February after all.    My project is in what I think of as the home stretch -- it merely awaits buttons, hand-sewing of the lining to the zipper, and hemming.  Hopefully I can get some or all of that done tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I thought I'd share something else I made today:  ice cream bread.  My husband found the recipe on BoingBoing and wanted to try it.   So I picked up the ingredients:

Death by chocolate ... mmm.

I am about the furthest thing from a cook there is.  It just doesn't interest me.  I seem to be incapable of following instructions, which is part of the problem.  I confess that I didn't even follow the link to the recipe  until I was posting it here (and I still haven't read it).  I just asked my husband for the pertinent details and off I went.  But you can't really mess this one up.  Or believe me, I would have.

Basically, to make ice cream bread, you take equal amounts of the stuff pictured above (I used two cups of each, then another spoonful of ice cream) and mash 'em together.  Probably you should let the ice cream get a little melty before you try to mix in the flour.  And for God's sake, don't do what I do and try to knead them together with your hands .... ice cream is @$#&! cold!   I ended up mashing at it (right in the cooking pan, as I also hate washing dishes) with a couple of spoons.  This is what it looked like right before it went into the oven:

Pardon the appearance of my pan -- it has seen much brownie batter.

Thirty minutes or so at 350 degrees, and what comes out of the oven doesn't actually look a whole lot different, but sure enough, it's bread!   Actually, the texture is pretty scone-like.  And it tastes pretty darn good, for something so simple.   We ate it for lunch.  :)

Don't worry, there is no chance that this will become a cooking blog!  Hopefully I'll have a finished dress to show soon.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bonehead no more -- the finished dress

Last time I posted, I was bemoaning the many mistakes I made on this dress, but I'm happy to say, the bodice do-over took and it came out not half bad.  It was worth the extra time (and thankfully I had the extra fabric).  Unfortunately, the stupid cold weather leaves me in no mood to have myself photographed in it, so I sent the dress out to wander the back yard on its own:

1942's Simplicity 4294 in all its sunny glory.

It looks a little creepy hanging in midair like that, but the bamboo makes a nicer backdrop than my sewing room clutter.   The pattern is from 1942.  It has those nifty squarish-inset sleeves from the time, which my gingham does not show off to advantage. However, when I tried topstitching on bodice v1, I didn't like the way it looked, so I nixed it on the redo.  Another design change I made was to make the collar white, which was a definite improvement.  Incidentally, the collar was a bit confusing to me, as the back part of the collar is actually attached to the front bodice pieces.  You sew them together at the center back of the collar, and then sew that to the back bodice.  Once I'd gotten my mind around that, doing my usual full lining was no problem.  

I did some pattern alterations on the bodice as I traced it off, and by round two, I had realized that the set-in belt was way too small.  I added two inches, and wish that I had added maybe a teeny bit more.   I also lengthened the bodice by about an inch, and went with three buttons instead of two.  I waffled for a long time about which buttons to choose: I had red, yellow, and blue, all of which would work.  Blue won, as you can see.

And here's a photo of the dress wrong side out.  As I've done in the past, I both lined the dress and used the provided facing pieces.  I didn't use interfacing (which I hate ... maybe because I've never bought the good stuff) and that was the right choice for the collar (the facing pieces are made out of a medium weight cotton) but the belt could have used some.   I used the main fabric for the belt part of the lining just because.

I finished this close to two weeks ago, and have since moved on to other projects.  I started with a 40s mail order pattern, but it didn't pan out -- the fit was off, and quite frankly, the drafting of the thing was wonky.  It also turned out to be a "teen" sized pattern, though it didn't say so explicitly, and I've found those a challenge to work with, since apparently I am no longer a teen.   I loved the style of this fail of a pattern, though, so I went back to Butterick 6149 and used it as a starting point to draft my own version. I didn't try to make it exactly the same as the one I was copying, but the inspiration comes through clear enough.   I've got that version cut out now ... just need to find time to sew the thing together.